Tick Flagging with Dr. Scott Smith’s Class

On December 2, San Mateo Mosquito and Vector Control District laboratory staff helped lead a field trip at Wunderlich County Park for Stanford students learning about tick borne diseases. The class was entitled Parasites and Pestilence and was led by professor and District Trustee Dr. Scott Smith. Students were given tick flags and instructed on basic tick biology as well as how to collect ticks and sort by sex and species. The ticks were then returned to the lab to be tested for the infectious diseases Lyme (caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi), anaplasmosis (caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum), and hard-tick relapsing fever (caused by the bacterium Borrelia miyamotoi).

A total of 140 ticks were collected by the Stanford students over a total of 1.7 miles of trails. District lab staff returned on December 5 to collect an additional 101 ticks for a grand total of 241 ticks collected over 2.45 miles of trails. These ticks will be tested for infectious diseases within the coming months.

It is important to remember that, even in the winter, ticks can be very abundant in San Mateo County parks. If you hike during the winter, say in the middle of trails away from the grass and bushes at the edges. Tuck in your clothing – socks over pants, shirt into pants – and wear repellent. Avoid sitting or walking into areas with high brush or downed logs and always check yourself at the end of the day for any creatures that may have hitched a ride.